Nomenclature Zoo

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The Nomenclature Zoo

a collection of unusual specimens from the IAU Nomenclature

Officially and unofficially named craters within larger officially and unofficially named craters

See list in this page.

There are certain crater names... (Latinized versus common names for craters)

See list in this page.


The following data was current as of April 17, 2009

  • The total number of active lunar names in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer: 8,986
  • Of the total, 7,056 are satellite features (lettered craters), leaving 1,930 named features.
  • Number of named craters: 1,553
  • Total number of named nearside features (longitude<=90): 6,657
  • Total number of named farside features (longitude>90): 2,329
  • Number of nearside names excluding satellite features: 1,240
  • Number of farside names excluding satellite features: 690
  • Number of inactive names (not included in previous totals): 109
    note: the on-line Gazetteer does not include a complete list of discontinued IAU names; and some of the "inactive" ones were, in fact, never approved.

Although the Moon's farside is more heavily cratered than the "front", the preceding demonstrates (not very surprisingly) that the nearside has both a higher density of primary names, and more satellite features (on average) per primary name.


Oldest: according to Whitaker and Schimerman the following names were used by van Langren in 1645, adopted by Riccioli in 1651, and continue in use at the original locations -- the link shows the original spelling:

Endymionis, Langreni, Pythagorae, Sinus Medius

Pythagoras seems to be the one that has survived the longest with no change in spelling. Riccioli actually re-used as many as 60 of Langrenus' names, but all the others were placed in different locations. That Riccioli preserved the name "Langrenus" in Langrenus' original position was likely intentional, and Sinus Medius had the meaning "bay at the center"; but, given the large number of differences, the fact that the two men used the names "Endymion" and "Pythagoras" for the same craters may be pure coincidence.

Newest: 24 new names for craters at the Moon's poles are the most recent additons to the IAU nomenclature. Two of these were announced on October 30, 2008, nineteen more on January 22, 2009 and another three on April 17, 2009. These are the first lunar names to be adopted under a new policy that does not require a vote of the General Assembly and publication in the IAU Transactions.

Odd Characters

The names of persons honored on the Moon are spelled in accordance with the wishes of the honorees country of origin. The following names contain characters that cannot be reliably expressed in the extended ASCII character set of the Wiki, the page titles and references to them have been simplified:

Andel Arminski Becvar Milankovic Mohorovicic Nusl Purkyne Safarik

Largest -- Smallest

A list of the largest and smallest named features in various categories as listed in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer. The numbers in parenthesis are the official dimensions. In selecting the "smallest" feature in each category the many small features, mostly craters, that appear in the Gazetteer as Landing site names were not considered. They are all listed with a dimension of "0".

Craters: Hertzsprung (591 km) -- Dag (0.5 km) Manuel (0.5 km) Osama (0.5 km)

  • Smallest crater named for a specific person: Sampson (1 km)

Crater chains: Catena Michelson (GIRD) (456 km) -- Catena Brigitte (5 km) Catena Yuri (5 km)

Ridges: Dorsum Buckland (380 km) -- Dorsum Thera (7 km)

Rilles: Rimae Pettit (450 km) -- Rima Marcello , Rima Reiko (2 km)

Scarps: Rupes Altai (427 km) -- Rupes Boris (4 km)

Valleys: Vallis Snellius (592 km) -- Vallis Christel (2 km)




Headlands: Promontorium Taenarium (70 km) -- Promontorium Archerusia (10 km)


Deciding what is the longest name in the Gazetteer is a bit complicated because some names are listed with an older name in parenthesis. There are many other features that also have former names, but they are not listed in this way. It is not entirely clear the parenthetical part is to be regarded as part of the name in the few that are listed that way, or not. In some cases that may be the intention, in others not. Thus some possible candidates for longest name include:

Bellinsgauzen (Bellingshausen)
Catena Michelson (GIRD)
Catena Lucretius (RNII)
Promontorium Archerusia
Promontorium Heraclides

Another possibility is:

Tranquility Base (Statio Tranquillitatis)

The name honoring the Apollo 11 Landing Site seems to have been adopted in that form, although only the Statio Tranquillitatis part is listed in the Gazetteer.

The longest names of specific people seem to be:

Kamerlingh Onnes
Sulpicius Gallus

Deciding the shortest name is easy. The Gazetteer contains 16 names with just three characters:



Although the vast majority of the features listed as craters in the IAU Planetary Gazetteer are thought to be impact craters, a very few are thought to be volcanic caldera or vents (sometimes at the summit of a dome previously assigned a Greek letter). These include:

Donna, Diana, Grace, Ina and Aratus CA

Some of the crater chains may also be volcanic in origin. As indicated above, a number of lunar "domes", thought to have resulted from the extrusion of volcanic material, were originally included among the raised landforms listed as Greek-letter satellite features, but only a few of these survived the transition to the modern latinized terminology, in which features of this type would be classified as mons. The remainder were dropped, and, unfortunately, no longer have official IAU-approved names. Among the IAU-named mons, those thought to be primarily of volcanic origin include:

Mons Gruithuisen Delta, Mons Gruithuisen Gamma, Mons Maraldi, and Mons Rümker


Persons honored on the Moon have traditionally been restricted to philosophers and scientists. The IAU briefly flirted with idea of including authors, painters and musicians; but since 1974 a resolution by the WGPSN has again restricted the "name pool" to deceased scientists. Nonetheless, a few feature names honor people known primarily for their accomplishments in these now disallowed categories. Among them are:


Chaucer, Cyrano, Dante, Gernsback, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells

Even after the 1974 prohibition, the approval of astronaut-named landing site names added Brontë, Shakespeare and several indirect references to authors by using the names of prominent characters in their stories. To English-speaking people, Omar Khayyam is also remembered mostly as a poet he was, in fact, a court astronomer by profession.


da Vinci, Daguerre and Russell (John)

were all cited for their artistic, as well as their scientific accomplishments.

Several persons for whom craters were named are cited more for their financial backing of astronomical endeavors than for their personal involvement in them. They include:

Bruce, Lick, McDonald (William), Moltke, Mösting, Sheepshanks, Shuckburgh, Sinas and Yerkes

Shuckburgh actually seems to have been an astronomer of some note, as well as a benefactor; although that is not mentioned in the official IAU citation.

Mythical figures:

Atlas, Cepheus, Daedalus, Endymion, Hercules, Icarus, Mercurius

The crater name Apollo might also be regarded as a reference to a mythical figure, but it was specifically named to honor the U.S. Moon program, is possibly meant to be spelled in capital letters, and was undoubtedly an acronym for something in the first place.

The moon goddesses Artemis and Diana appear as minor features, but the on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer regards them as examples of common female names.

Living People

You normally have to be dead to have a lunar feature named after you. But the IAU has named a few craters for people still alive at the time the honor was bestowed (click date for citation in IAU Transactions).




Note: the above refers only to names first given by the IAU. Many of the historic lunar feature names adopted by the IAU when it entered the naming business honor persons alive at the time the names were first used.

Multiple Honorees

Originally it seems that nearly every named crater honored a single person. For example, Herschel for William Herschel, J. Herschel for John Herschel and C. Herschel for Caroline Herschel. But in 1970, after soliciting new news for the Moon's farside, the IAU began the practice of consolidating nominated persons sharing the same last name, and honoring them with a single shared crater. In addition, some of the names proposed were assigned to the nearside as multiple honorees added to existing names. For example, Blagg and Müller used the name Adams to honor a single person, John C. Adams, a British astronomer. In 1970, two American astronomers sharing the last name Adams were added to the list of those honored by this same crater. Ironically, this was done at about the same time that the IAU was concerned about the lack of sufficient supply of unique names to serve for all the craters that deserved names. The following is a list of currently-named features honoring more than one person. The numbers in parenthesis are the number of different persons honored:

Abetti (2)
Adams (3)
Agrippa (2 ?) (the book Who's Who on the Moon by the Cocks-twins shows a totally different Agrippa).
Bernoulli (2)
Bond, G. (or Bond, G.P.) (George Phillips Bond). On many moonmaps, such as the Hallwag moonmap, printed as G.P.Bond.
Bond, W. (or Bond, W.C.) (William Cranch Bond). On many moonmaps, such as the Hallwag moonmap, printed as W.C.Bond.
Brouwer (2)
Campbell (2)
Cantor (2)
Carpenter (2)
Cassini (2)
Clark (2), and L. Clark
Compton (2)
Dubyago (2)
Fischer (2)
Fleming (2)
Fowler (2)
Grave (2)
Hahn (2)
Hale (2)
Henry Freres (2) + Henry (1) (=3? -- seems to have been intended that all three names would be associated with a single crater at 24S, 59W)
Hess (2)
Hirayama (2)
Hogg (2)
King (2)
Maraldi (2)
Markov (2)
Maunder (2)
Maury (2)
McDonald (2) (not in Menzel)
McMath (2)
Minkowski (2)
Montgolfier (2)
Nielsen (2)
Orlov (2)
Pickering (2)
Popov (2)
Riccius (2)
Riedel (2)
Ritter (2)
Roberts (2)
Ross (2)
Russell (2)
Schmidt (3)
Slipher (2)
Struve (3)
Vavilov (2)
Wilson (3)
Wright (3)

The only name in Blagg and Müller that is certain to have honored more than one person is Henry Freres, although it is possible that Bernoulli, Maraldi and Riccius did so as well.

Multiple Honorings

In general a given individual is honored by a single primary feature name (which may be shared by nearby features named after it). There are many instances in which closely related persons with the same surname have been honored with primary names at different locations (usually distinguished a first-name initial), but only a very few cases in which specific individual is honored at two distant places.

Harry Hess: Hess -- Hess-Apollo
Fridtjof Nansen : Nansen -- Nansen-Apollo
Nicolaus Steno : Steno -- Steno-Apollo

Nasir al-Din al-Tusi : Nasireddin -- Al-Tusi (the latter probably dropped, but never officially)

Another possible case is : Bowen -- Bowen-Apollo (although the identity of the latter honoree is not known)

Parenthetical Names

Some entries in the "Feature Name" field of the current on-line IAU Planetary Gazetteer consist of one name followed by a second name in parenthesis. Instead of multiple honorees, these names represent the same person with two possible spellings. These are by no means the only persons honored on the Moon whose names were spelled in more than one way. Why these particular ones (all on the Moon's farside) were singled out and when such parenthetical names were approved by the IAU are both unclear.

Here are the names with parenthetical parts as they appeared in earlier IAU and non-IAU publications.

Menzel, 1971
NASA RP-1097
1989 Gazetteer
1994 Gazetteer
Current Database
Catena Leuschner (GDL)
Catena Leuschner (GDL)
Catena Leuschner (GDL)

Catena Leuschner (GDL)

Catena Lucretius (RNII)
Catena Lucretius (RNII)
Catena Lucretius (RNII)

Catena Lucretius (RNII)

Catena Michelson (GIRD)
Catena Michelson (GIRD)
Catena Michelson (GIRD)

Catena Michelson (GIRD)

Bellinsgauzen (Bellingshausen)

Bellinsgauzen (Bellingshausen)

Engel'gardt (Engelhardt)

Engel'gardt (Engelhardt)


Fridman (Friedmann)

Ganskiy (Hansky)
Ganskiy (Hansky)

Ganskiy (Hansky)

Heron (Hero)
Heron (Hero)

Heron (Hero)

Lents (Lenz)
Lents (Lenz)

Lents (Lenz)

Litke (Lütke)
Litke (Lütke)

Litke (Lütke)

Nöther (or Nöter)
Nöther (Noether)
Nöther (Noether)

Nöther (Noether)

Shternberg (Sternberg)
Shternberg (Sternberg)

Shternberg (Sternberg)


Tsander (Zander)

Tseraskiy (Cerasky)
Tseraskiy (Ceraski)

Tseraskiy (Ceraski)


Tsinger (Zinger)


Wan-Hoo (Van-Gu)

  • The asterisks (*) in the third column indicate eight names for which the authors of RP-1097 say their NASA spelling differs from the IAU spelling. Note that RP-1097 was not an IAU-approved publication, and (despite what the authors say) these are not the only names that differ from the IAU recomendations. Similarly, early versions of the Planetary Gazetteer were not prepared by, and were only vaguely endorsed by, the IAU.

  • Menzel, 1971 (the first column) is the main official IAU list of farside names. It was pre-approved by the IAU at its 1970 meeting, and is the first time these names were announced. Menzel, 1971 did not include Heron (Hero) or the three catenae because those names were announced in later years. Heron was announced in 1976 where it was published as "HERON (also written Hero) Ca. 100 B.C. 1.0 N, 119.6 E Egyptian physicist". Clearly, the also written part was not intended to be part of the IAU-approved name, any more than the parenthetical part of the previous entry "HEIM, DORSUM (Albert)", or the or part of "NÖTHER (or Nöter)" in Menzel, 1971. These were simply added to clarify the identity of the historical person referred to by the name.

  • IAU XVB (the second column) refers to the "complete list" of IAU-approved names (actually only of approved primary crater names ) published as an Appendix to the 1973 IAU Transactions. It appears that between 1971 and 1973 the IAU had changed its recommended system of transliterating Russian names, hence Ceraski becomes Tseraskij (with similar changes in many Russian names not listed here). By 1989, the recommended system of transliteration seems to have changed yet again (or the USGS was using a different one from the IAU?), so ij becomes iy.

The first three parenthetical names in the above table (the catenae) represent the form in which those names were first officially published (actually with the recommendation that the parenthetical part be placed on maps on a separate line below the current name) in IAU Transactions XVIIB. The remaining parenthetical notations appear to have have been gradually added (without explanation) in various incarnations of the USGS-prepared Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, with occasional changes in spelling (as in Cerasky/Ceraski), and, in the exceptional case of Bellinsgauzen, the disappearance and then reappearance of the parenthetical part. With the exception of the three catenae, none of these parenthetical names have ever been officially announced in the IAU Transactions.

Another exceptional case is that of Walter/Walther. It appears that upon discovering that the IAU had inadvertently approved two separate and distinct craters to be called Walter they unilaterally altered the spelling of the larger one to Walther based on their biographical research, and it appears in that form in the 1989 edition of the Gazetteer. By the time the more official 1994 USGS version appeared, it was listed as Walter (Walther); and presumbably remained in that form until the name of the latter crater was officially changed to Walther in 2000. Perhaps it should really have been changed to Walther (Walter)?

The handling of the catenae is similar to the IAU's recommendation regarding formerly lettered craters that have been replaced by names: in those cases the IAU has recommended that the earlier lettered designation be placed on maps in brackets below the current name. However, that recommendation has rarely been observed, there are many other current names that had different IAU-approved spellings in the past, and GDL, RNII and GIRD were not formerly approved IAU names. Similarly, in the present instances, many of the parenthetical names recall an earlier IAU-approved name, but in the cases of Hansky, Friedmann, Noether, Zander, and Van-Gu, the parenthetical name does not appear to be a spelling that was ever approved by the IAU (or, in the cases of Hansky, Zander, and Van-Gu, even by NASA).

As mentioned above, although "prepared in cooperation with the WGPSN", the Gazetteer (at least in its early years) was a semi-independent USGS/NASA publication. The editors mention that in accordance with WGPSN guidelines, "When more than one spelling of a name is extant, the spelling preferred by the person, or referenced in Appendix 4, is used." In other words, the USGS/NASA authors appear to have felt free to alter earlier IAU-approved spellings if they found something different in the biographical references they consulted. It is unclear whether "prepared in cooperation with the WGPSN" means that such changes would be regarded as being automatically approved by the IAU, but this seems unlikely, since at the time name changes required publication in the IAU Transactions, and, as noted above, these changes were never published there. It is also unclear if the authors intended their parenthetical additions to be a required part of the new "IAU-approved" names, or not. Since the editors themselves quote the WGPSN guidelines as requiring selection of a single spelling, it seems probable these parenthetical additions were the editors' notes to themselves about alternate spellings they had encountered, that should more properly have been relegated to notes in the "Origin" field: "formerly spelled Bellingshausen", "sometimes spelled Hansky", etc.

The new USGS Digital Atlas maps, prepared by database custodian Jennifer Blue to document the current IAU nomenclature, include the parenthetical additions only for the three catenae. In all the other instances, the parenthetical part listed in the database is omitted.


In 1970 the IAU rejected the name Rutherford as a candidate for a farside feature because it sounded too much like Rutherfurd, an existing name (Menzel, 1971), and suggested that an attempt be made to remove such instances from the existing nomenclature. But by the next meeting it had relented. There are now (and were then) many names that differ only by a single letter or by a slight difference of sound, so that they can be easily confused either in writing or speech:

Alden -- Alder -- Alter
Anderson -- Andersson -- Henderson
Back -- Black
Bailly -- Baily
Blackett -- Brackett
Blagg -- Bragg
Bose –- Boss
Bradley (mons) -- Brayley (crater)
Cailleux (crater) -- Cayeux (dorsum)
Casatus -- Cysatus
Chappe –- Chappell
Chebyshev –- Chernyshev
Clausius –- Clavius
Crocco –- Rocco –- Rocca -- Ricco
Curtis –- Curtius
Debes –- Debus
Donna –- Donner
Elmer -- Helmert
Gardner –- Gärtner
Gilbert -- Hilbert
Graff -- Van de Graaff
Hale –- Hall
Halley -- Healy
Harden -- Harding
Jansen –- Janssen
Kane –- Kant
Kies –- Kiess
Koch -- Krogh
Komarov -- Kramarov
Lacchini -- Tacchini
Liouville -- Louville
Mee –- Mees
Miller -- Muller
Naumann -- Von Neumann
Nicolai -- Nikolaev
Nobel –- Nobile -- Nobili
Petit –- Pettit
Piazzi -- Piazzi Smyth
Ross –- Rosse
Rutherford –- Rutherfurd
Spur -- Spurr -- Spörer
Vera -- Very
Verne –- Jules Verne
Wallace –- Wallach
Walter –- Walther
Wan-Hoo -- Wan-Yu
Warner -- Werner
Watt –- Watts
Wolf –- Mons Wolff (sometimes called simply Wolff in the older literature)

many others that are similar enough to cause confusion could easily be added to this list. And the list of potential future names unveiled in 1976 contains still more.

Moved Names

Some lunar names no longer mark the features they originally did:


Brisbane, Regnault, Ulugh Beigh

D'Alembert (formerly Montes D'Alembert in a different location)

Additional moves according to Whitaker, p. 235:

Montes Cordillera, Galvani, Hausen, Le Gentil, Marco Polo, Pingré, Seneca, Wolff

Dropped Names

Over the years, a large number of names have been suggested but not adopted by the IAU. Among the names actually adopted, the IAU spelling for many has changed, and a number of lettered crater designations have been replaced with specific names. Some names have also been moved from their original locations. But in only a relatively small number of cases has a name, once adopted, been completely dropped.


J. Cassini, Mare Novum, W. Pickering, Schneckenberg


Montes D'Alembert, Montes Leibnitz, Montes Doerfel, Montes Hercynii, and Montes Sovietici – mountain ranges deemed non-existent


Eppinger -- since restored to its original name of Euclides D

Al-Tusi and associated features (approved 1976; but same person as Nasireddin)

Additional drops according to Whitaker, p. 235:

Oriani, Timoleon, Riphaeus Boreus, Riphaeus Major, Riphaeus Medius, Riphaeus Minor, Ural, Gay-Lussac Sinus, Pietrosul Bay, Palus Nebularum, Mare Hiemis, Mare Parvum, Prom. Banat.

Shortest-lived Name

The name of the lunar elevation originally known as Maraldi Gamma was changed to Mons Maraldi Gamma on p. 330 of IAU Transactions XVIB (1976), then changed again to Mons Maraldi 20 pages later in the same Transactions.

The 44 Writers, etc.

The LTO charts contain many names that are listed as "provisional, pending IAU approval". Some of these were indeed approved and became part of the IAU nomenclature; many others were not. There are 44 names of writers and artists that were provisionally assigned to craters that are in a somewhat peculiar situation: although never adopted, they were for some unknown reason included in the original printed IAU Planetary Gazetteer, with the names appearing in square brackets, even though many other proposed, but disallowed, names were not listed. For historical continuity, these names continue to be listed in the on-line Gazetteer in the special category "Never approved by the IAU":

[Chekov] (the name that appears on LTO-81B4 is "Shekhov")
[El Greco]
[Li Po]
[Shekhov (Chekhov)]
[Undest] (the name that appears on LTO-40B4 is "Mons Undest")

Other proposed, but never adopted, names that have been singled out for inclusion in the on-line Gazetteer include:

[Dorsum Lambert]
[Fossa Casals]
[Fossa Cauchy]

and perhaps in a special category:

Rima Schröter -- which is actually a correct name, but is also listed in square brackets as a name erroneously associated with Vallis Schröteri on LTO-38B3.


Mons Euler -- a name listed on LAC 39 and approved by the IAU in 1976, but then approved again in 1979 as Mons Vinogradov.

Note: [Lorca] (for Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca, 1899-1936 and designating the feature presently known as Aratus CA) is somewhat unique in that in addition to appearing on the LTO-42A4 and being used in the sheet names for Topophotomaps 42A4/S1 and 42A4/S2 (where it is listed as "provisional"), it also appears on LM-41 and LM-42, where it is listed as "approved by the IAU". However this approval, if it happened, does not seem to be listed in the Transactions of the IAU, and Whitaker believes it was a clerical error. As indicated above, [Lorca] is listed in the on-line Gazetteer as "Never approved by the IAU".

First Names

For most categories of lunar features, the names assigned honor specific people, and the name assigned is the last name of the person(s) being honored. About the only historic exception is:


who, like Galileo, was known professionally by his first name (although Galileo is commemorated by a latinized version of his family name Galilaei.

In 2000, the WGPSN broke with this tradition by re-naming Marinus D to:


in honor of Harlan J. Smith, an American scientist. Presumably the reason was that the last name Smith had already been assigned in an area reserved for fallen astronauts and it was not considered appropriate to add another honoree to that crater (since there are many famous Smiths, a better solution might have been to rename that to M.J. Smith and establish a generic "Smith" somewhere else; but the thinking of the WGPSN is hard to follow).

A much larger exception is the number of Minor Features that were given names selected from an international list of male and female names (up to three syllables). These names are intentionally not meant to honor anyone in particular. For example Ewen is not supposed to be thought of as honoring the American selenographer Ewen Whitaker; nor presumably would a deceased scientist with the last name Alan be honored by attaching his biography to the crater of that name (although it is unclear what the WGPSN would actually do in either of these cases.

The following list gives the names of this sort -- specifically not meant to honor any particular individual -- that can be found in the current lunar Gazetteer (the numbers in parenthesis highlight the size of the largest in each category -- for example, the largest first-name crater is Melissa, 18 km in diameter, and the largest first-name mountain is Mons Dieter):

Catena Brigitte
Catena Pierre
Catena Yuri (5 km)
Dorsum Thera
Melissa (18 km)
Mons Agnes
Mons André
Mons Ardeshir
Mons Dieter (20 km)
Mons Dilip
Mons Esam
Mons Ganau
Rima Carmen
Rima Cleopatra
Rima Marcello
Rima Reiko
Rima Rudolf
Rima Siegfried
Rima Sung-Mei
Rima Vladimir
Rima Wan-Yu
Rima Zahia (16 km)
Vallis Christel
Vallis Krishna (3 km)

In addition to these, Ardeshir appears on the IAU list of suggested generic male-female names; however the on-line Gazetteer lists it as the name of a Persian king. Similarly Aloha was given in the list of male-female names, but the on-line Gazetteer identifies it as an Hawaiian greeting.

On the other hand, among the names listed above Boris, Carol, Diana, Donna, Esam, Ewen, Grace, Isabel, Kasper, Linda, Louise, Melissa, Romeo, Samir, Shahinaz, and Walter are described in the Gazetteer as generic first names, yet they never seem to have been on the IAU list.


At least two of the IAU names are the pseudonyms, or pen-names, of the persons they commemorate: